Here’s a kind of wonderfully dopey news item that appeared in the Jerusalem Post last week and then was reposted at The Tablet. That is, the news itself was perfectly legitimate, but the reporting and headlines—that is, the part that will stick in the mind of your average reader—was something else.
The news: Israelis were polled on the question of whether or not Israel’s leaders should take into account the views of American Jews on the peace process. The responses broke down roughly in thirds: 31.9% said “not at all,” 33.6% said “to a small extent” and 31% said “to a great extent” (that last was divided into 21.6% “to a great extent” and 9.4% “to a very great extent). If I remember my 4th Grade arithmetic, that comes to roughly two-thirds (64.6%) saying “yes” and one-third (31.9%) saying “no.” Logically, then, the headline and lead paragraph should inform us that Israelis, by a two-to-one margin, want their government to take the views of American Jews into account to a greater or lesser extent. Make sense?
You’d think. In fact, the June 18 headline in the Jerusalem Post headline read: “32% of Israelis believe US Jews should stay out of peace process.” The lead paragraph read:
Most Israelis think the government should totally or mostly disregard US Jewry’s positions on the peace process and religious affairs, according to a poll released Monday.
Tablet was even better. Its June 21 headline read: “Israelis to U.S. Jews: Stay Out of Peace Process.”
A subheading beneath it read: “Poll reveals Israelis don’t want leaders considering American Jews’ positions.” The lead sentence (with a link to the Jerusalem Post article) read: “A new poll reveals that Israelis would prefer American Jews mind their own business.” It went on to quote the Jerusalem Post’s figures.
Think I’m misreading the poll’s results? Consider this: The poll found that 66.3% of Israelis see the American Jewish community “as having a very or somewhat positive influence on Israel’s national security,” according to the post. That’s roughly the same number that wants their government to take American Jewish views into account.
The Post reported that the poll
was conducted by Teleseker and commissioned by The Ruderman Family Foundation, which seeks to strengthen relationships between Israel and the US Jewish community, ahead of the launch of a Knesset caucus led by MK Nachman Shai (Labor).
That’s the same Nachman Shai who won fame as the voice of the IDF on CNN during the first Gulf War and later became head of the Israel office of what’s now the Jewish Federations of North America. He’s now a Labor party Knesset member.
Also from the Post story:
On religious issues, such as conversion or the government’s relations with the Conservative and Reform movements, 24% of Israelis were against taking US Jewry’s positions into account, and 30.6% said they should be considered to a small extent. Still, Israelis are more willing to accept input from American Jews on religious issues than on the peace process, with 25.1% saying it should be taken into account to a great extent and 15.2% responding to a very great extent.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).